A couple of weeks ago I stepped down as an associate pastor at our church to prepare for our move out of state. It’s the first time being a full-time stay-at-home mom with no meetings to attend, no sermons to prep, no ministry or work obligations whatsoever. So how do I fill up this new space in my life? I cook. Instead of prepping for Sunday services, I plan for meals. Instead of having coffee dates with people, I shop for groceries with the intent of filling my family’s bellies and our fridge to bursting. I am becoming my mother, and I can’t help it…
“Confession has never been a feel-good word to me. I grew up in a Korean Presbyterian church, so confession often meant something along the lines of punishment, sinner, dirty, shame. Shame for the things we had done. Shame for the ways we had failed. Shame for not being able to overcome. Shame for even feeling shame. A prayer of confession ended with an amen drenched in guilt rather than freedom and forgiveness. We were taught to be tough, to have it all together, to cover up weakness, to confess our brokenness silently before God but not to one another.”
I remember in college our old youth pastor sat a group of us down at Starbucks, and we played one of his encouragement games. One person would be in the “hot seat,” and each of us would go around and share one positive thing about the person. We loved him so we obliged, and out of the all the things people said about me, the only one I remember is, “She got nicer.”
Gentleness was not my strong suit in my younger years. I understood the other fruit of the Spirit. Love- of COURSE. Joy- DUH. Peace and goodness- YES. Patience, kindness, faithfulness, self-control- not in my repertoire, but OBVIOUS. But gentleness? It seemed like an option. Like something you were either born with or not, and clearly I wasn’t born with it. I wanted to be tough and hardcore, and there wasn’t any room for gentleness with that persona.
Fast forward to my seminary years. My first year, I was paired up with Heidy- an artist and the complete opposite of me. She was sweet, sensitive, honest, and so so gentle. She was hurt by my rough edges more often than I knew, and yet she continued to stay close. She loved me, encouraged me, forgave me- over and over again.
My second year I lived with Christine- deeply reflective, loving, and like Heidy, sensitive and honest. She loved me enough to confront me when I hurt her, she was willing to walk together toward reconciliation, and I’ve been the recipient of her grace and love more times than I can count.
They were the chisel and the sandpaper of sanctification I needed to soften my sharp angles, and they deserve a standing ovation.
The other day someone thanked me for rebuking them with gentleness, and I couldn’t help but think of the three of us- Heidy, Christine, and my old self. It wasn’t much fun being disciplined to be gentle, and I’m sure it was worse for them than it was for me. But it was only because of those going-against-the-grain times that I’m able to do anything with gentleness, that I’m seeing how Jesus was strong and kind, hardcore and gentle, and that I’m learning to embrace the pain of discipline because “it pays off handsomely.”
Thank God I’m not who I used to be. Thank God for time and community to shape us, hone us, and mature us so we don’t stay the same.